Saturday, February 22, 2014

So You Want to Learn the Force... Help You I Can

What have you given back to this hobby?  I hear lots of chatter about getting kids involved in the hobby, but let's face it, if you were 12 and had to choose between sitting quietly and building a model or blowing shit up in a video game, you would choose the latter.  Times have changed and we are the dinosaurs we thought we'd never become.  So I'll repeat the question, what have you given back to the hobby?  If you go to a contest you will see guys building at all skill levels, from the bomb diggty super excellent over the top builder to the I wired the motor and slapped a decent paint job on it builder to the I used four tubes of glue and painted it in dust storm builder.  When was the last time you talked to those guys?  I bet you had no problem talking to the top shelf builder and spent a lot of time picking his brain about how he did this or that.  What about the up and comers? Did you make time for them?  At the club meeting are you seeking out the lesser skilled builders and offering advise and help if they want it?  Notice I didn't say criticism, some guys don't want to hear it, they are happy to build the way they are building.  Other guys are hungry to improve and want some advice on how to do that, find those guys and help them.
What I'm saying here is be a mentor and find a mentor.  For those who don't know a mentor is an experienced and trusted adviser. This does not mean to glom on to the best builder you know, it means find a guy that is a little better, or a little more experienced than you and ask for advice.  Then take that advice.  That is the hard part, taking the advice, that is why your mentor must be trusted.  The other cool thing about a mentor ship is that it usually starts out as a friendship because a mentor has to be someone you trust.  You may also have to change mentors as your skill develops, of course that doesn't mean that you lose friends, it means you get to make more friends.  The cool thing about having a mentor is that you can be a mentor at the same time you are being mentored.  As you are developing your skills you can share the skills you already have and you can share how you learned it.  As with anything else, there are good mentors and bad, if a guy isn't helping you out, be friends but don't expect to gain from the friendship.
I have had several mentors throughout my building "career" and some didn't even know they were mentors, as these things are usually very informal.  I used to live in a small city and I didn't really know any modelers, so I built to what I thought was to a high standard, then I went to a contest and not just any contest, the Toledo NNL.  I thought my stuff was going to knock those guys eyes out.  About 15 minutes after I set my cars down and I looked around a little bit, I wanted to grab my crappy builds and run.  A couple of guys came up and talked to me and I looked at their cars and they looked at mine.  They were polite and the best part was, they kept talking to me like I knew what I was doing even after they saw my crappy shit .  I didn't go to another contest for a long time.  I later moved to a small town, built in my basement and collected kits until I finally found a club about 50 miles away and I got involved with them.  At the same time, I got involved in several groups online and got some good advice there.  Some guys from the club invited me to a few contests and because of the advice from them and others I actually won something.  I became good friends with one of the guys who had entered lots of contests and usually did pretty well but was not a "Best of Show" winner.  He gave me advise and help with the ins and outs of contests and I learned a ton.  Then I got as good as him at contests.  Another guy from the club started giving me advise on my builds and how to do things, he is a consistent "Best of Show" winner.  I learned more and my skills are improving.  Then a local IPMS guy who has won national awards several times and is a really good military modeler started to give me help and advice.  I'm positive my skills will improve.  By the way, these mentor ships all started out as friendships, trust is huge.  These guys also kind of "sought me out" as a builder who wants to improve and is willing to learn.  At the same time as these guys are helping me, I have tried to help others improve by sharing the skills I have mastered and giving advice and encouragement to guys that want to improve.
We all have a vision in our heads of what we want our models to look like.  Some of us come closer to that vision than others.  If you have the skill set to help a guy achieve his goal, help a brother out.  If you want to improve you building, seek out those who build better than you and learn from them.  Make friends with builders of all stripes and be a part of the community, and as Robocop would say, "Thank you for your support."
"Rat Fink" Ron

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